Inkaar (2013): Indian filmmaker Sudhir Mishra's tale of misunderstood love with shades of Rashomon

A treatise on corporate life, office politics, and love  

A Potpourri of Vestiges Review

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Inkaar Poster, directed by Sudhir Mishra, starring  Arjun Rampal, Chitrangada Singh, hot scene, getting cozy in office
Inkaar (2013)- By Sudhir Mishra
Our Rating: 7.0
IMDb Ratings: 5.4
Genre: Drama
CastArjun Rampal, Chitrangada Singh, Vipin Sharma
Country: India
Language: Hindi
Runtime: 126 min

Summary: At a leading ad agency, the battle for the top job between Rahul Verma, the advertising CEO, and Maya Luthra, his ambitious protégée, takes an ugly turn when Maya files a sexual harassment complaint against Rahul.

Inkaar (which translates to “Refusal” in English) is a 2013 Hindi film written and directed by renowned Indian filmmaker Sudhir Mishra. Inkaar stars Chitrangada Singh and Arjun Rampal in the lead roles. While this is the third Sudhir Misha film that stars Chitrangada Singh in the lead—the other two being Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi (2003) and Yeh Saali Zindagi (2011)—it’s the first time that Arjun Rampal has teamed up with Mishra. Mishra has an uncanny knack of making his actors look remarkably good in front of the camera. The best example is probably Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi wherein Mishra elicited a topnotch performance from an average actor like Shiney Ahuja. He made Chitrangada Singh appear so elgant in the movie, her first ever, that the critics went to the extent of comparing her to the late Smita Patil—the dusky doe-eyed yesteryear Indian actress who is often looked upon as a touchstone for judging an actress’ beauty, talent, and intelligence. Mishra achieved something similar with Kareen Kapoor in Chameli (2003), where he helped her get rid of the contemptible ham tag that had got associated with her during the early years. Since then Kapoor has never looked back. Chitrangada Singh has always been very choosy in picking her films. Of the half a dozen films that she has done till date her best work has come in the ones she has worked with Mishra. Clearly the actor-director duo shares a special chemistry, one that’s seldom seen in Hindi cinema. This gives rise to an interesting question. Is Inkaar worthy enough to be the third collaboration between Mishra and Singh? But, before we try and find an answer to the question it’s essential that we first scrutinize the various aspects of Inkaar.

Arjun Rampal as Rahul Verma and Chitrangada Singh as Maya Luthra, getting cozy, Directed by Sudhir Mishra
Arjun Rampal and Chitrangada Singh in Sudhir Mishra's Inkaar
In Inkaar, Sudhir Mishra puts the spotlight on the highly contentious issue of sexual harassment in corporate circles. The movie tries to define the term “sexual harassment” by highlighting the complexities associated with it. The greatest challenge is to draw the line between flirtation and harassment. Once that is taken care of the next challenge is to fathom the reality that, contrary to the popular belief, both the sexes are equally prone to sexual harassment. And that’s where the subjective element comes into the picture. Who’s the victim? Who’s the accused? Thus, it becomes a real nightmare situation to deal with. As a senior female lawyer aptly describes in the movie, “It’s often much easier to prove rape than sexual harassment”. The story of Inkaar presents one such case of alleged sexual harassment. 

Chitrangada Singh as Maya Luthra, Inkaar, Directed by Sudhir Mishra
Chitrangada Singh as Maya Luthra in Inkaar
Arjun Rampal as Rahul Verma and Chitrangada Singh as Maya Luthra, getting cozy in the swimming pool, Directed by Sudhir Mishra
A Still from Sudhir Mishra's Inkaar
Arjun Rampal as Rahul Verma and Chitrangada Singh as Maya Luthra, Directed by Sudhir Mishra, Rahul harasses Maya
Chitrangada Singh and Arjun Rampal in Inkaar
The complaint is filed by the National Creative Director of a top advertisement agency, Maya Luthra (Chitrangada Singh) against the agency’s CEO, Rahul Verma (Arjun Rampal). Apparently, Maya is fed up of Rahul’s bossy nature, his lascivious behavior, his vulgar conversations that are replete with double entendres, and the chauvinistic manner in which he treats her. She is sick and tired of the typical male mentality that’s easily intimidated by the presence of an ambitious female personality with an indomitable spirit. Maya has worked her way up in the organization and just when she thought that her hard work has paid off she is stymied by Rahul. Maya is in no mood to let Rahul dictate his terms to her and files a complaint against Rahul. But wait before you start drawing any conclusions! There’s more to it than meets the eye. Rahul and Maya share a rather tempestuous past. It had all started about seven years back when Rahul had recruited Maya—an ambitious small-town girl—into the organization. It was Rahul who had taught Maya the tricks of the trade. But their association had not remained limited to that of a mentor and a protégé and had taken the shape of amorous love. Despite being quite close to one another at the time both Rahul and Maya, driven by their professional hunger, had failed to consolidate their relationship. They soon had to part ways as Maya moved to the Delhi office (from Mumbai office) and subsequently to the head office in New York. When she finally returns to Mumbai (after a gap of seven years) she is immediately promoted to the post of National Creative Director. Maya’s sudden reappearance and her untimely promotion, which don't go well with most of her colleagues especially Rahul, opens up a Pandora’s box of delicate issues that years ago had been brushed under the carpet. The growing tension culminates in Maya filing a sexual harassment complaint against Rahul.  

Arjun Rampaal as Rahul Verma, Inkaar, Directed by Sudhir Mishra
Arjun Rampal (Right) as Rahul Verma in Inkaar
Chitrangada Singh as Maya Luthra in Sudhir Mishra's Inkaar, Maya strips in a fit of anger, tears her clothes apart, Directed by Sudhir Mishra
A Still from Sudhir Mishra's Inkaar
Deepti Naval in Inkaar, presides over the sexual harassment hearing, Directed by Sudhir Mishra
Deepti Naval in Sudhir Mishara's Inkaar
As the hearing progresses, it becomes more and more difficult to discern who is speaking the truth and who is not. While the versions of Maya and Rahul only differ slightly there is enough deviation to perplex the most astute of minds. The manner of proceedings, though completely alien to Indian cinema, is strikingly similar to Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa’s groundbreaking masterpiece Rashomon (1950), which is widely regarded as a cinematic treatise on the subjectivity of truth. In Rashomon, Kurosawa had highlighted, for the first time in cinema, that discrepancies can actually exist among the different versions of the same event (as narrated from the perspective of the different parties). These discrepancies testify the subjective nature of truth. This is sometimes also referred to as “The Rashomon Effect”In Inkaar, Misha succeeds at several fronts (mostly from the cinematic point of view), but he fails miserably in one regard. Inkaar fails to remain true to its core theme, that of sexual exploitation. And the failure is ought to cost him badly, for the typical Indian film audiences are not accustomed to shocks and surprises. They want to be spoon-fed and are easily agitated by a filmmaker who tries to test them in any manner. Thus, presently there isn't much scope for experimentation in commercial Indian cinema. Also, there isn't enough of sleaze or eroticism in the movie which is bound to disappoint a certain section of the audience. Well… what does this make Inkaar? A bizarre tale of misunderstood love, at best; an exercise in style, at worst! Having already talked about its flaws and shortcomings, it’s important to discuss its stronger areas. Inkaar succeeds in highlighting the dark side of corporate culture. The corporate world is more or less like a black hole which sucks an individual into it with such force that an escape becomes impossible. As the individual is sucked deeper it becomes more and more difficult for him/her to lead a normal life. The relationships suffer as one fails to attend to the needs of the loved ones. And by the time one realizes that he/she is surrounded by  more strangers than friends it’s too late.  

Arjun Rampal as Rahul Verma and Chitrangada Singh as Maya Luthra, Directed by Sudhir Mishra
A Still from Sudhir Mishra's Inkaar 
Overall, Inkaar despite its flaws is a commendable work of cinema that brings to the fore some serious issues concerning the corporate culture. Through the microcosmic world of an advertisement agency, Mishra presents to us the pitiful tale of human detachment that’s slowly becoming a reality. Inkaar is brilliant from the technical point of view. The editing is absolutely brilliant and the same can be said about its music. The acting is above average. Mishra elicits a remarkably strong performance from Arjun Rampal. Chitrangada Singh is ever so delightful as the dusky, sensual Maya Luthra. Deepti Naval cameo is a major highlight of the movie. Apparently, Naval replaced Mishra's ex-wife Sushmita Mukherjee who, because of her tight television schedule, failed to spare any dates for the movie. Saurabh Shukla makes his presence felt in an interesting item number that he gets to perform in the movie. The lead actors get good support from the supporting cast. Inkaar with its slow character development, ambiguous themes, and deceptive direction is ought to disappoint an average viewer whose sole purpose is entertainment, but an intelligent viewer who is patient enough to wait for the different layers to slowly get unwrapped will be rewarded.

Readers, please feel free to share your opinion by leaving your comments. As always your feedback is highly appreciated!  

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  1. Hi Murtuza,

    That was a detailed review of a film which deals with the underpinnings of office romance, which is a commonplace phenomenon in offices today.

    Many of the cases of romance/harassment don't even come up out in public attention, they're usually buried under the carpet.

    This looks like an intelligent film, will definitely give it a one-time watch. After watching, will let you know my feedback on the film :)

    Thanks for the review :)



    My Newest Blog Post | My Entry to Indiblogger Get Published

  2. "Also, there isn't enough of sleaze or voyeur in the movie which is bound to disappoint a certain section of the audience" - :)
    Thanks for following my blog - it's always great to find new bloggers that also write about Indian movies. I haven't seen Inkaar, but the subject sounds interesting so perhaps I'll check it out some time.

  3. Well... I think the feeling is mutual... it's always a pleasure interacting with fellow cineastes. If you are looking for something new that you won't be disappointed.... would love to hear from you once you are through watching it :-)

  4. I think now after the Tejpal incident its pretty valid and contemporary in theme, and damn This Chitrangda Singh is very hot man, thanks for the review............


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